For a 22-year-old author to publish a book is a major accomplishment. It’s even more impressive when the writer is autistic.
In “Episodes: My Life As I See It,” Carmel Valley resident Blaze Ginsberg recounts his teen years with all the normal tribulations of adolescence, compounded by the communication and social interaction problems that accompany autism spectrum disorders. Unlike the traditional memoir, Blaze tells his story in a format similar to that of the Internet Movie Database and TV.com. He writes about life events as though they are TV episodes, complete with release date, cast list and soundtrack.
“I thought (this format) was such a clever and natural way to communicate his way of thinking,” said Debra Ginsberg, Blaze’s mother and author of six published books. “I learned a lot about Blaze reading it. There’s no other young adult book written by someone on the spectrum —- this is the first one.”
Blaze’s name is most recognizable to those who read his story in Debra’s 2002 memoir, “Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World.” The book recounts her first 13 years as a single mother to a child who defied simple diagnosis. She fought fiercely to get him the education he deserved, even home-schooling him at one point. At 19, Blaze finally received an autism diagnosis. He now attends community college and has a part-time job at a grocery store.
Blaze is proud of how his mother told his story in her book, but seeing his own memoir published is even better. “It’s a nice accomplishment,” he said. “But there’s also an ironic taste to it because it shows people who doubted me that I could do something.”
Blaze’s journey as a writer began early, with much encouragement from his mother.
“He’s been writing songs, poems and short stories ever since he began keyboarding,” she said. “I always thought he had an unusual turn of phrase. I pushed him in a lot of things, but never with writing, because it was something he really enjoyed.”
The writing of “Episodes” began in December 2003, when Blaze’s everyday routine changed slightly, something he strongly dislikes. While thinking about that, he suddenly saw his life in a different light.
“I thought that stuff in my life was like TV,” he said. “When I got home that day, I went crazy writing. My grandfather read what I wrote, then my Nana and then my mother. My mother really encouraged me to keep going.”
When Blaze reached 50 pages, Debra sent those pages to her friend Steven Malk, one of the premier children’s book agents in the country. Malk sold the book to Roaring Book Press, and it hit bookstore shelves Sept. 1.
Many of the issues Blaze writes about affect most teen boys, such as finding a girlfriend and passing his driving test (he recently passed the written test, something that’s not in the book). “You see more stuff in the book being solved than not,” he said. “That’s what the book is really about.”
The reviews so far have been positive. “Ginsberg gives readers a unique glimpse into an adolescent mind that is simply wired differently,” read an article in School Library Journal. “Blaze has a capacity to translate the often untranslatable differences of human beings. Blaze blazes his own his literary path with humor and pathos,” wrote actress and children’s author Jamie Lee Curtis.
Blaze admits he never thought of how “Episodes” would inspire other teens on the autism spectrum, but would be happy if it does. He’s excited about his first book signing Thursday evening at The Book Works in Del Mar.
“I love public speaking,” he said. “I like talking about myself and letting people know what’s happening behind the scenes with me.”
For Debra, Blaze’s accomplishment is like another chapter in her memoir, one that shows what she always knew to be true —- with the right encouragement and assistance, her son could be whatever he wanted to be.
“I think that Blaze is the most courageous person I know,” she said. “The kinds of obstacles and struggles he faces take an enormous amount of courage to do every day. And even in the most difficult of times, he got up, went to school and did it. That’s how he approaches everything in life. For me, that’s true inspiration.”
Blaze Ginsberg reads from and signs “Episodes: My Life As I See It”